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The Ultimate 2024 CFL Season Preview

Graphic by Mitchell Fox

BY CHRISTOPHER SVAB


Are you ready? 


If not, you better get ready. 


The 2024 CFL season is a few weeks away from kickoff and if you’re anything like me, the excitement is already difficult to contain. There are new and exciting storylines, free agent signings and a whole new atmosphere to be excited for when the season comes around. Teams are different and I am here for all of it. 


I will be going over each team and their major moves this offseason, predicting their record and going over potential playoff matchups for the 2024 season. 


Let's start with the defending champions. 


Montreal Alouettes 

Last season: East 2nd place, Grey Cup Champions


The Alouettes are coming off a massive season for the franchise. They upset both the 16-2 Toronto Argonauts in the East final and the powerhouse Winnipeg Bluebombers in the Grey Cup to take home their first championship since 2010. 


Now, they look set to strive for a similar result. The Alouettes are bringing back most of their roster with little to no changes in roster construction. Perhaps most importantly, their Grey Cup MVP Cody Fajardo is returning after coming off of a spectacular season and postseason run, totalling 3,847 yards and 14 total touchdowns. 


Montreal did grab some depth in the draft, adding to their stellar defensive scheme by selecting linebacker Geoffrey Cantin-Arku with the ninth overall pick, using their third-rounder on defensive back Arthur Hamin and selecting defensive lineman Micah Roane with their fourth-rounder. Safe to say this defence is looking more and more tough after the draft. 


In free agency, the Als added Dylan Wynn, a former Cleveland Brown and CFL veteran defensive tackle who has won a Grey Cup—in his 2017 rookie season—and been named an all-star three times—in 2017, 2019 and 2021. 


With Montreal bringing back most of their roster and adding new players to fit their needs to make them stronger, they look ready for a better season than last year. 


PREDICTION: My prediction for Montreal is a 13-5 as the number one seed in the east. 


Winnipeg Blue Bombers 

Last season: West 1st place, runners-up


Winnipeg is coming off of their 4th straight Grey Cup appearance after winning back-to-back and then losing the last two—to the Argos in 2022 and the Als in 2023. Their focus now will be finding a way to retool and add to their aging roster in order to keep their championship window alive. Undoubtedly, Winnipeg has high expectations related to keeping their streak going.


The good news for the Blue Bombers is Zach Collaros, their 35-year-old superstar quarterback, is returning after having a fantastic season throwing for a career-high 4,252 yards and 33 touchdowns. 


After re-signing most of their roster and adding a few more defensive options, the biggest question for Winnipeg was where star running back Brady Olivera was going to sign. There were rumours of him going to Saskatchewan and Toronto, but ultimately he re-signed with the Bombers on a two-year deal. He has been and will continue to be a key piece for them.


In free agency, they added four defensive backs—Isaiah Norman, Patrick Rogers, Demetries Ford and Rick D’abreu— and defensive tackle David Green, providing some reinforcements on defence.

In the draft, the Blue Bombers focused on retooling their offensive line, adding four rookie offensive linemen. The most notable was 17th overall pick OL Gabe Wallace from Buffalo.


Winnipeg kept a lot fo their key pieces and made some savvy additions, so a strong season is certainly in play. 


PREDICTION: I am predicting a 13-5 record for the Blue Bombers as the top team in the west division. 


Toronto Argonauts 

Last season: East 1st place, East Finals


The Argonauts are coming off of a franchise-record season of 16-2. However, their season ended in disaster with a lopsided 38-17 loss to Montreal in the East final. This loss set off a chain reaction of the Argos losing more than they have gained back in free agency. 


Most notably, the Argos lost running backs A.J. Ouellette to Saskatchewan in free agency and Andrew Harris to retirement. Other departures have included Javon Leake, their star kickoff and punt returner, to Edmonton and CFL all-star Jamal Peters to their rival Hamilton Tiger-Cats. 


Nevertheless, they did hold on to some key pieces. Returning players include linebackers Wynton McManis and Jonathan Jones, with Dejon Brissett returning as wide receiver. 


With most receivers and tight ends returning, the Argos’ biggest hole on offence came at running back. Who did they get to replace Ouellette and Harris? Ka’Deem Carey. The former Calgary Stampeder and 1,000-yard rusher signed with the team in February, looking to take on a bigger role than the nine games and 476 rushing yards he posted last year might indicate. Carey can fill the void at RB for the Argos but the impact Ouellette had on the field will be hard to replicate. 


Finally, the Argos have lost quarterback Chad Kelly due to a nine-game suspension for violating the CFL’s gender-based violence policy. Replacing him will be fan-favourite Cameron Dukes, who was used partially in the closing games of last season. 


PREDICTION: Given the Argos could not get all they lost back, I am predicting their record will be a solid 10-8 as the second seed in the East. 


B.C Lions 

Last season: West second place, West finals


BC is one of the best up-and-coming teams in the league. 


After losing a CFL superstar QB in Nathan Rourke to the NFL a few years ago, no one was sure whether or not they could bounce back. However, when Montreal signed Fajardo, the Lions signed their QB, Vernon Adams Jr. Adams instantly made an impact, leading the team to 12 wins while throwing for a career-high 4,769 passing yards and 31 touchdowns. Adams will be returning to BC for the 2024 season, which leaves them in a good spot going forward. 


With most of the receivers returning and new additions along the way, BC looks to be in a good spot when it comes to offensive weapons. A need heading into the draft was to fill out the offensive line to protect Adams, give him and his receivers more time to make plays and to get the running game going. BC used their sixth and 15th overall picks on offensive lineman George Una from the University of Windsor Lancers and Theo Bendent from the UBC Thunderbirds to further strengthen their line.


Most of the defence is returning, while some signings are solidifying the Lions as a top defence in the league. They signed DL David Menard to replace the now-retired Stephen Richardson and linebacker KeSean Brown to stop the run some more. 


Last season, the Lions made a West Final appearance where they faltered to Winnipeg, a spot they hope to be in with a different result this season.


PREDICTION: I believe BC will have a repeat of last season’s 12-6 record, though they will see improvement in each player and their play style. 


Ottawa Redblacks 

Last season: East 4th place


The Redblacks offseason needed to be a big one. Their 4-14 record in 2023 needs to be turned around to make an impact and show they have a future. 


In his rookie season, quarterback Dustin Crum led the team by throwing 10 touchdowns and 3,109 yards. Although not the most outstanding season, he showed a ton of potential to be a starter. Otherwise. though, the Redblacks signed Dru Brown in February. Dru spent the last three seasons in Winnipeg learning from Zach Collaros, capped off last season with 983 throwing yards, nine passing touchdowns and no interceptions. With Brown in the picture, Ottawa will have to choose their week one starter through preseason competition. 


While the quarterback position is vital, the issues in Ottawa can be perceived as mainly defensive. Their offence scored the fifth most points in the league despite only winning games. 


How exactly have they tried to fix this? 


In the draft, Ottawa used the second overall pick to select Nick Mardner, a wide receiver. However, in rounds 2, 3, 6 and 7, they drafted DBs and DLs to strengthen their defensive presence. Their second-rounder, DL Daniel Okpoko, and third-rounder DB Dawson Pierre, stand out amongst the group. 


This re-shaping of the defence also extended into free agency, where Ottawa signed former XFL linebacker Caliph Brice, who had a stint with the NFL’s Green Bay Packers in 2022 as an undrafted free agent. 


Another huge signing for Ottawa came in the form of Owen Carney, a former Cincinnati Bengal and Miami Dolphin who will make his CFL debut this season. In his short NFL career, Carney had 53 solo tackles, 16 sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. 


PREDICTION: With all these new additions, we can expect an improvement in Ottawa's defensive play. However, I do feel their game needs more depth. Therefore, a prediction of 5-13. 


Calgary Stampeders 

Last season: West 3rd place, first-round


Calgary is coming off of a strange 6-12 season where they made the playoffs. Their first-round matchup against BC ended in a 41-30 loss. 


Jake Maier, their third-year quarterback, showed significant improvement from 2022 when he threw for 4,244 yards and 19 touchdowns in his 2023 campaign. 


The Stamps’ offence seems just fine due to their high-intensity receivers including Reggie Begleton and new addition Auden Tate. However, they did have to replace their 1,000-yard rusher in Ka’Deem Carey this offseason, which they did by signing both Peyton Logan and Dedrick Mills from free agency, rather than drafting a running back. Perhaps the biggest question is how these new running backs will turn out in the upcoming season and who will win the RB1 spot before kickoff. 


One thing Calgary has needed to focus on is their defence. In a long list of defensive signings, Darious Hodge, the defensive lineman from Wake Forest, NC, sticks out. He had a short stint in the NFL for both the Bengals and the Dolphins and can now bring what he has learned and the best of his talents to the CFL. 


Calgary had two first-round picks in the draft, the fourth and the eighth overall pick, which was acquired from Winnipeg. They used their first pick on DB Benjamin Labrosse from McGill University and the eighth on Christy Nkanu, an offensive lineman from Washington State University. Their draft was filled with defensive players, matching their needs. 


PREDICTION: Calgary has shown some improvement defensively, yet I feel they might regress due to inexperience and the fact their offence seems relatively the same despite adding a few more weapons for Maier. Therefore, Calgary has a chance of going 5-13. 


Hamilton Tiger-Cats 

Last season: East 3rd place, first-round


After finishing last season at 8-10 and a first-round exit to Montreal, Hamilton needed to make a splash, and that they did. 


First off, the Ti-Cats needed to address the fact Bo Levi Mitchell, their aging star QB, was injured a lot last season, leaving room for Taylor Powell to have a productive season. They needed to find a way to protect their QBs in the pocket and keep them, especially Mitchell, on the field. So, with the seventh overall pick in the draft, they selected offensive lineman Nathaniel Dumoulin Duguay from Laval University. 


Next up through the draft, they needed to find a way to take pressure off of star running back James Butler so he does not have to be their number one option all the time. They thus drafted running back Matthew Peterson with the 36th overall pick. 


Hamilton had a bunch of free agent signings but one stands out most. To further strengthen their offence, they signed 24-year-old Dev Holmes from the University of New Haven. In his 3 seasons in university, he tallied 2,257 yards with 29 total touchdowns, earning the title of Northeast-10 All-Conference First Team. To summarize, he's pretty good. 


PREDICTION: Hamilton understands their needs and has addressed them in the draft. The only thing that concerns me is the health of Mitchell. If he stays healthy Hamilton has a shot at a 10-win season. However, because of the uncertainty surrounding the QB position, I’ll say Hamilton goes 8-10.


Saskatchewan Roughriders 

Last season: West 4th place


The Roughriders had a very rough and heartbreaking 6-12 season. An atrocious seven-game losing streak to end the season was highlighted by a last-second interception in a game against the Argos. They allowed the most points in the league—551 points against—but also only scored 387 total points, second last in the league. 


Only getting five games out of quarterback Trevor Harris was, of course, not ideal for Saskatchewan, so a healthy version of him should give them a boost.  The former 5,000-yard passer wants to bring his team to the next level. 


The biggest move for Saskatchewan came from free agency with the signing of Argos superstar running back A.J Ouellette. Ouellette rushed for over 1,000 yards in 2023 and fills the large gap in Saskatchewan's almost non-existent run game last year. To further strengthen their offence, they signed WR Geronimo Allison, who had a nice career in the NFL with Green Bay and Detroit. 


For their defence, the Roughriders made a splash by signing linebacker Jameer Thurman, defensive end Malik Carney, defensive back Jalon Edwards-Cooper and finally a pair of linebacker brothers, Jordan and Justin Herdman-Reed. They spent big this offseason, showing they weren’t afraid to change things up.


As for the draft, the Riders came out with a nice balance of offence and defence. They used the third overall pick to select Kyle Hergel, an offensive lineman from Boston College, before reinforcing their defence with Nick Wiebe, a linebacker from Saskatchewan, with their second-rounder. 


PREDICTION: With all these new additions, the Roughriders may surprise us this year with a strong 11-7. 


Edmonton Elks 

Last season: West 5th place


Finally, we reach the Edmonton Elks. Coming off of a 4-14 season full of problems, I think the Elks found some solutions. 


Their quarterback situation falls in the hands of Tre Ford and McLeod Bethel-Thompson, the former Toronto Argonaut and Grey Cup champion. Ford showed his superb skill and playmaking ability last season with his arm and feet game, providing a rare commodity in the CFL by giving the Elks the best of both running and passing from the quarterback position. I think he gets the starting job.


As mentioned earlier, the Elks signed Javon Leake, the star returner from the Argos who had four return touchdowns and the third most return yards in CFL history with 1,216. Leake provides them a massive boost on special teams and adds another touchdown threat on the field. 


Despite adding Leake, the Elks needed to draft well to attempt a full rebuild. They needed to address their offensive line as well as their defence. And they did. 


The Elks controlled the first pick of the draft, where they selected linebacker Joel Dublanko. Dublanko spent his 2023 season in the USFL, totalling 27 tackles in 7 games. This All-AAC first-team star would not be alone at the linebacker spot because, with the 10th overall pick, Edmonton selected D.K Bonhomme from the University of South Alabama. 


A big struggle the Elks had to address was the offensive line, as Ford was one of the most sacked quarterbacks in the league in 2023. So, they also drafted 3 offensive linemen: Jaxon Morkin, Evan Anseeuw, and Patrick Lavoie. 


PREDICTION: With all this being said, the Elks are still a very young team and have a lot to figure out. I believe they will go 4-14 again, but of the sort where you can see the development of players and team chemistry building for the 2025 season. 


Regular Season Winning Predictions 


Playoffs 

The playoff matchups according to my predictions will be as follows. 


East Semi-final 

Hamilton Tiger-Cats  @ Toronto Argonauts 

Montreal Alouettes - Bye to East Final 


West Semi-final 

Saskatchewan Roughriders @ B.C Lions 

Winnipeg Blue Bombers - Bye to West Final 


East Final 

Toronto Argonauts @ Montreal Alouettes 


West Final 

B.C Lions @ Winnipeg Blue Bombers 


Grey Cup 

B.C Lions @ Montreal Alouettes 


Champions: B.C Lions 


Final Thoughts 

In the end, these are just my thoughts on what the season may look like. I know each team has improved in some way, shape or form and this next season, like any other, can be unpredictable. 


Whatever happens in 2024 will be full of excitement. It could just be one of the most competitive seasons in the modern CFL era. 


I hope you’re ready now.


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